in the newark library

by Louis Ginsberg

http://npl.org/about-the-library/history/
Image: Newark Public Library

Tread softly in these magic halls,–
        This Palace of Romance;
For mighty monarchs of the mind
        Gaze at your every glance.

Prophet and poet, priest and sage
        Are living here anew;
From alcove and from crowded stack
        They look again at you.

And all these voices of the past
        Are murmuring again
Their garnered wisdom of the world
        Into the ears of men.

Here Keats is watching eagerly
        Wherever Beauty gleams;
Shakspere is gazing in your heart;
        And Shelley, in your dreams.

So enter very softly here
        This Palace of Romance;
For all the monarchs of the mind
        Peer at your step and glance!

John Cotton Dana called the public library “the most democratic, universal institution ever devised,” and Newark’s library has fostered the work of countless women and men of letters, including native son Louis Ginsberg. This tribute was featured in The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

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winter

by Louis Ginsberg

Image: Newark Public Library via nj.com
Image: Newark Public Library via nj.com

A barren field in the Winter,
        When the winds dart,
When chilly the driving snowflakes
        Bite and smart,
Bleak with the frost of sorrow,
        Lies my heart.

Yet in the dreary snowfall,
        Lighting the view,
And whistling with vibrant music,
        That shrills through,
Green are the glistening hemlocks,–
        My thoughts of you!

Newark-born poet Louis Ginsberg included these lines in his 1920 collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

the coal yard

by Louis Ginsberg

The night was hushed and the street was dark;
Dimly came the flicker of the lone pale arc.
And dreary from the corner, a chill wind stole,
Huddling past the desolate yards of coal.

But while I peered at the yards of gloom
And saw how the heaps lay dark as doom,
I heard a crackle and I heard a roar—
And the black piled coal was seen no more!—
Suddenly I felt the night to sag,—
And Time fell away, like a worn-out rag!

I saw before me how the forests towered,
How the fronds and the ferns and the creepers flowered;
I saw the jungles of gigantic grasses;
I saw the waving of the monstrous masses;
And the looping mosses and the crowding spores!—
I watched how the greenery leaps and pours
Down from the branches in a rich green blaze,
Flooding on the tangle of the riotous maze!
But more than this, I could feel the heat
Soak on the forest and simmer and beat!
I spied dim swamps and I spied wide lakes,
Where hissed and threaded the huge red snakes;
I saw the lizard and Okapi lunge;
And the rearing Brontosaurus thrash and plunge!
But while they were battling in the bellowing din,
I heard a peal and a crash begin:
Earthquakes weltered and convulsions tore—
I heard Chaos dance—I heard Chaos roar—
The deafening jungles were hurled down deep—
Earth closed over. . . . Then in one swift sweep,
Burying forest and beast and tree,
Years came flooding like a wild white sea!

Again I stood in the hush of night
Underneath the flicker of the lone pale light;
And I gazed at jungles and their fronds and ferns—
Jungles of foliage in a heat that burns—
Jungles with sunlight and beasts,—the whole
Huddled and crowded into pieces of coal!

Image: Daniel Hedden via The Star-Ledger
Image: Daniel Hedden via The Star-Ledger

“The Coal Yard” is from Ginsberg’s collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics (1920).

the side-street

by Louis Ginsberg

Image: Library of Congress
Image: Library of Congress

The bye-street, the shy street,
        The street where cobbles gleam,
Is quaint and narrow like a lane
        That drowses in a dream.

The staid trees, the shade trees
        Are prim old maids that sway;
They rustle laces and their gowns
        And bustle all the day.

Yon garden wall that crumbles
        Upon the garden grass,—
Who knows what lovers it has heard
        Whispering there and pass?

The bye-street, the shy street
        That dozes in the shade,
It never hears the Traffic roar,
        Nor hears the tramp of Trade!

Louis and Naomi Ginsberg lived in an apartment at 163 Quitman Street when their son Allen, the future Beat poet, was born. According to Allen’s recollections in “Don’t Grow Old,” the family later moved to a house on Boyd Street.

“The Side-Street” was included in Louis Ginsberg’s 1920 collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

summer afternoon

by Louis Ginsberg

Image: Newark Public Library via The Star-Ledger
Image: Newark Public Library via The Star-Ledger

The sky pours gold, raining in a shower
        Fluid sunlight down to flood each street,
Deluging all the world in the hot noon hour,
        Till the teeming city simmers with the heat!

Sunlight spills along the allies and the byways;
        All the air is crowded with scents upon the breeze;
Sunlight inundates the busy marts and highways;
        While pale gold light is shaken from the trees!

Radiant with gold are passing girlish faces–
        Radiant gold of sunlight which drenches and clings!
Streets drink brightness and blaze to flaring places;
        And round a hurdy-gurdy, children dance rings.

Popular poet and Newark native Louis Ginsberg published this in his 1920 collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

hot city night

by Louis Ginsberg

Image: Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger
Image: Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger

The dank and sulky tenements
        Are wilting weary with the heat;
While from the doorways, children spill
        And clot the humid, huddled street.
The pools of faces flood the stoops
        And dribble into every space,
Until this packed humanity
        Seethes like a vat in every place!
The sallow mothers with their babes;
        The playing, sprawling children there;
The flaccid moldy aged men;
        The boys with their disheveled hair–
This weltering humanity
        Is saturated with the heat
That wedges into every crack,
        Pressing and beating on the street!
But while a hurdy-gurdy trolls,
        A sentimental tinsel tune;
And cars are droning down the tracks;
        And weary pallid mothers croon,
In every eye, a flare or gleam
Reveals the sea-shore in a dream!

This poem was part of Louis Ginsberg’s 1920 collection The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

april twilight

by Louis Ginsberg

So beautiful it is, this April dusk,
        This quiet twilight after wistful rain,
That everything is breathless, lest it stir
        The mystery that haunts this meadow lane.

A hush is clinging to the hallowed air.
        I hear the murmur of the looms of Spring.
I see the testament of leaf and grass;
        And glory lurk in every simple thing!

Until I think, within this wistful dusk,
        Within this miracle of bud and tree,
Heaven must be a land of haunted lanes,
        Where April blossoms out eternally!

Image: Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger
Image: Tony Kurdzuk/The Star-Ledger

Born and raised in Newark, Louis Ginsberg (1895-1976) became one of the most widely read American poets of the twentieth century.  In his later years Ginsberg’s verse found new audiences through public readings with his son, the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

“April Twilight” appeared in The Attic of the Past and other lyrics (1920).